Today I walked to the quad on campus with my lunchbox and picked a lovely sunny spot in the grass to spend my hour-long break. A southern baptist group was out there, with one man was standing on some milk crates preaching. This particular group, unlike another baptist group who frequents campus yelling brimstone and hellfire, is actually quite nice. They simply try to tell students what the Bible says–not convert people or harass them.
The preacher man offered $20 to anyone willing to do what he called the Good Person Challenge. He asked “Who among you considers yourself a good person?” A young man named Lucas stepped up. The preacher proceeded to ask Lucas if he’d ever lied, disrespected his parents, taken God’s name in vain… By the time he went through the whole list of sins, he determined that Lucas was indeed not a good person (but for the record, Lucas seemed like a very nice boy).
Poor Lucas didn’t disagree with him, but pointed out that God is merciful and might send him to purgatory for these sins. The preacher shot down this idea, claiming that purgatory is nonexistent. The two never reached an agreement. Lucas, a Catholic, was convinced that his soul is alright; the preacher was convinced that Lucas needed to be saved, saying that Catholic doctrine is unbiblical.
As a Catholic, I’m no stranger to the fact that there are fundamental differences between these two religions. However, I didn’t disagree with the man’s message today, and I actually enjoyed his sermon.
I did, however, have a problem with a girl who interrupted the Good Person Challenge to ask Lucas if the guy was bothering him, implying that he forced Lucas to be up there. Lucas was the one who volunteered–Lucas was making $20! The man asked her to not interrupt, since he was having a conversation with Lucas. The girl responded very rudely.
Many students are rude to these evangelists on campus. Some students are downright hateful, cursing the people out and starting debates. These students claim that evangelists are intolerant, but in all truthfulness, the intolerance goes both ways.
Coincidentally, the concept of a “good person” is a theme that’s been running through my head a lot this week. What makes someone a good person? Am I a good person? Is anyone actually a bad person, or is there mostly good in everyone? Do other people care about being a good person as much as I do?
I like to think of myself as a good person, but I can recall times when I’ve been cold, jealous, distant, stand-offish, defensive, or selfish. The man’s message today was comforting to me–no one is perfect, and no amount of good deeds can make us perfect. But because of Jesus, we’re forgiven for all that. It’s up to us what we do with it. We can start by treating others how we’d want to be treated, which includes religious tolerance and respecting others’ beliefs.